Understanding Fermentation Cultures vs Citric Acid
If you're aiming to achieve that signature "fermented tang" found in dry-cured sausages, you'll need to delve into the intriguing world of fermentation culture and citric acid. This distinct flavor profile is the result of lactic acid buildup and a decrease in pH during the fermentation process. While Fermento and Citric Acid can both contribute to this tanginess, it's essential to understand that Citric Acid is not lactic acid and therefore yields a slightly different result.
Fermentation is the true key to creating high-quality sausages with that traditional tangy character. These tangy notes are created by specific bacteria that either naturally occur during meat handling or are intentionally introduced via a Starter Culture. The latter approach is favored because it allows for controlled fermentation, ensuring a consistent and desirable product outcome.
Meat Starter Cultures: These are live bacteria introduced to the meat mix to lower its pH, and they operate in an environment with controlled humidity and temperature. Various Meat Starter Cultures are available to create products with varying levels of tanginess. However, using Meat Starter Cultures necessitates a fermentation period, which is not the case when employing Citric Acid.
Encapsulated Citric Acid: If you're making semi-dried sausages or snack sticks and desire that distinctive tang typically associated with reduced pH, Encapsulated Citric Acid is the solution. When used correctly, it's challenging to distinguish between sausages made using traditional fermentation or this product. There's no need to fret about special processing conditions. Simply add the citric acid to the meat mix at the end of the mixing process (without grinding the meat again) and blend it in by hand or using a mixer. Overmixing can rupture the capsules, causing premature citric acid release. This can also happen if citric acid is run through the grinder.
Encapsulated Citric Acid is natural citric acid encapsulated with maltodextrin and hydrogenated vegetable oil, which melts at 135 degrees Fahrenheit, releasing the citric acid into the meat product. This controlled release prevents premature pH reduction, which could negatively impact the texture of your sausage. If the pH drops before the protein sets at 105-115 degrees, the sausage won't bind well and may turn crumbly. Note that this product is not suitable for making dry products processed without heat; those require a starter culture.
For achieving that sought-after tang, it's recommended to use 3 oz. of Encapsulated Citric Acid for every 25 pounds of meat. Additionally, it can be employed to preserve the color of fresh sausages during storage, with 1/2 to 1 oz. per 100 pounds of meat sufficing for this purpose. Keep in mind that excessive citric acid usage can cause the meat to turn white.